Straight Talk | First woman hospital CEO to retire



To some, she came out of nowhere. To those who knew her, she was destined for leadership. Debbie Simon started her career in health as a floor nurse at Methodist Medical Center in 1976. Over the years she advanced in leadership and eventually was named President and CEO and later Regional CEO of Unity Point Health. She became the first female hospital CEO in Peoria and the area. After 43 exciting and successful years, Debbie is retiring, effective June 30.

I was employed at Methodist 25 years, from 1968 to 1993, and had the pleasure of working with Debbie and found her to be professional, extremely experienced and knowledgeable, compassionate and caring. Obviously, the hospital board of trustees and later Unity Point Health’s top management did also. When she was named CEO, the hospital had issues. She resolved the issues and more. Much has been accomplished by Debbie over the years. She leaves Methodist in better shape and position in the healthcare market than when she was named president and CEO. Congratulations Debbie, and may your retirement years be as enjoyable and successful!

New fire fees not well-received

Introduction of new fees on behalf of the Peoria Fire Department was not well-received, in part, because the news was poorly presented and seemingly confusing. The fees, designed to raise about $200,000 annually, will be assessed whenever the fire department is called to vehicle accidents. City folks had developed a fee schedule to reimburse the fire department for putting out car, truck, and motorcycle fires, extracting victims trapped in vehicles, and removing dangerous chemicals, and any other services required by firemen. In the roll out of information to the media, the city emphasized bills for those services would be sent to the insurance company of the driver named as cause of the accident. Whatever amount the insurance company did not pay on behalf of Peoria drivers would be waived. However, non-resident drivers at fault would pay 100 percent of costs. Hopefully, I have the ordinance description accurate.

I never receive news releases from the city or county. My information is obtained from other local media. As a former news director (WPEO), news reporter (WSWT-FM, WJIL-AM) and sports director (American Forces Network, Germany), I know a little about reporting and writing news releases. I did the latter for 25 years at Methodist Hospital. With that experience and knowledge, I checked web sites and found the print media focused on non-resident fees. A TV station inaccurately said fees would be assessed for any fire. No wonder people were confused. After I reported the story on our morning show on FM 90.7, a caller asked me if I was sure of what I was reporting. I answered, “No.” We both laughed. His interpretation of the ordinance was also wrong. Unfortunately, the ordinance easily picked up the descriptive word, “controversial.” Questions remain. Who gets the bill if both or all drivers in a multiple accident are at fault? What if the conclusion by police is “contributory negligence?” What happens if the driver has no insurance? What if weather is the cause of an accident such as slick or icy pavement? Will the non-resident section of the ordinance cause out-of-town drivers to stay out-of-town? There are multiple questions and few answers. Peoria needs more revenue while many complain the city needs to reduce expenses. Having said the above, look for the council to approve the new fees.

General Wayne A. Downing, an American hero. Would he be proud of the Peoria airport?

General Wayne A. Downing was a true American hero. The Peorian was a four-star general who graduated from West Point. He was a Ranger, member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade; officer in the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam; Commander of the 2nd Ranger Battalion; Secretary to the Joint Staff European Command; Commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Europe; Director, United States Special Operations; Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command at three different military bases.

He and U.S. troops parachuted behind the Iraq Republican Army in the Gulf War and eliminated missile sites. That’s only a few of his major achievements. General Downing came out of retirement to become the country’s first National Director and Deputy National Security Advisor for combating terrorism. He ended his military career with 36 medals and awards including a Purple Heart. Sadly, he died before his time at age 67 of meningitis and is buried at West Point.

I had the honor, privilege and pleasure of meeting and interviewing General Downing on our radio program and later participated with him as the emcee for the dedication of the World War I and II Memorial at the Peoria County Courthouse. I ask readers, airport director Gene Olson and airport authority board members, if you all believe General Downing would be proud that the Greater Peoria Airport refuses to fly the POW/MIA flag. When you read the General’s resume, of his accomplishments during war and peace-time, learn of his dedication and love for the men and women who served with him and under his command, do you honestly believe he would say, “Yes, you’re right. Don’t fly the POW/MIA flag at the airport that carries my name.”

I don’t think so. The decision by the airport is illogical, unreasonable, and unpatriotic and fails to honor and respect General Downing and those who remain today, Prisoners of War and Missing in Action. Fortunately, a state senate committee is considering a bill that’ll require all Illinois airports to fly the POW/MIA flag. Let your Illinois elected officials know you support the bill which should not even be necessary. Shame on the Peoria Airport Authority.


“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
— Winston Churchill

Roger Monroe

1 comment for “Straight Talk | First woman hospital CEO to retire

  1. Terry Galvin Matthews
    March 1, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Roger I think you’re forgetting the first hundred years of a woman leading St. Francis Hospital.

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